Rev.17 details the “mystery” of the harlot, the beast, Rome. Only to eyes of faith does the true reality of this figure disclose itself. If you take the blue pill the glitz and glamor, power and prosperity will be what you see. If you take the red pill, however, you will see what John shows you, for Revelation is the red pill par excellence. This illustration from the movie “The Matrix” is a perfect example of how this book works. It unveils, or x-rays, the surface of things so the community of faith can carry on with a sure sense of the deep truth of God and the world it has been called to bear witness in.
Rev.18 details in horrible detail the demise of this figure. A great angel announces Rom’s fall, declaring it a wilderness, a haunt of every foul thing, who has polluted and deceived the earth with it oppression, injustice, and cruelty (18:2-3.
Another heavenly voice calls God’s people out of Rome. This is not a physical retreat or withdrawal. That would not have been possible for the many slaves who were Christians. And it was really possible to escape Rome even if one physically withdrew because Rome is a spirit, a power, embodied in but not exhausted in the institutions and culture of the city set on seven hills. Rome is a spirit and must be combatted spiritually. Rome is the spirit of America. And it must be combatted spiritually. It is that spiritual struggle to which the heavenly voice calls us.
If you take the red pill Jesus offers you in this sermon it becomes possible to develop a profile of the spirit of Rome/America as the spirit to be resisted.
“Since the ideology and religion of empire almost invariably includes nationalism, militarism, and consumerism (that is, aggrandizing the merchants and reinforcing the dominating power of the nations), the call to “come out” is a call to resist, to create alternative, to practice refusal in the midst of Babylon.”
1. Most obviously, the spirit of Rome/America tries to live without God.
This leaves a hole, a vacancy, at the heart of the culture that tries to live without God. Hence the vision’s description of Rome as a haunted wilderness (v.2).
2. Sensuality (18:3,9).
Sexuality is inextricably tied to commerce. It is thus engaged in a reciprocal perversion of each other.
3. Injustice (18:13).
The most horrible example is that Rome engaged in promoting slavery, human chattel. And what chills the heart even more is that this human “merchandise” is placed at the very end of the list – the least of what Rome is buying and selling!
4. Commodification (18:13-19)
Everything is a thing that can be quantified and assigned a cost. After all, that hole in the culture’s soul must be filled by something and nothing can be off limits to buy or sell in that effort.
5. Violence (18:21)
Violence was endemic to the spirit of Rome/America. It is endemic to the human project of trying to live without God (Gen.6:11). So endemic that her judgment entails the violence that has marked her life.
6. Deception and Counterfeit (18:7)
This “Queen” feigns to rule over and determine the lives of all under her sway. The Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”) was anything but if you resisted its rule. The Vietnam maxim of “destroying a village to pacify it” comes out of Rome’s playbook.
7. Idolatry (18:7)
Self-glorification, or I-dolatry (the rule of the imperial “I”), is the primal human sin. The animating center of peoples and cultures trying to live without God.
That’s what God’s people are to steer clear of, even while living in the heart of the beast. This is the spirit of Rome/America that creates much of the injustice, oppression, and hardship that most of the world lives with. Wherever this spirit takes root, Rev.17-18 come into play.
The true and living God never allows self-proclaimed surrogates to prevail for long. Even if they claim to rule in his name. Rome’s judgment falls in a single day (18:8), indeed, a single hour (18:8, 17)! Obviously, this means a short time not a literal day or hour.
The lone note of hope in this bleak scene comes in the last sentence: “in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints” (v.24). At first glance this seems an indictment of the hardness of heart that refused to hear and heed the message and life of God’s people. And it is that. But as we have seen in this book, the “blood” of the Lamb and his people has redemptive power. It just may be that Jesus offers a hint here that if his people live his way, sacrificial, loving, servanthood, the kings and inhabitants of the earth’s enmity might be graciously overcome in divine goodness and mercy. It is intriguing that when we see all these enemies of God defeated and destroyed in the next chapter, we find them coming in and out of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, in Rev.21!
 Johnson, Discipleship on the Edge, 302-303.
 Grimsrud, https://peacetheology.net/2013/03/09/revelation-notes-chapter-18/.
 This is the powerful argument of Adam B. Seligman’s Modernity’s Wager.